Berkshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust: Healthcare from the heart of your community

Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar Disorder, sometimes known as Bipolar Affective Disorder or Manic Depression, is a condition that affects your moods.

You may have periods of:

  • depression – where you feel very low and lethargic
  • mania – where you feel very high and overactive (less severe mania is known as hypomania).

Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder depend on which mood you are experiencing.

Unlike simple mood swings, each extreme episode of bipolar disorder can last for several weeks (or even longer), and some people may not experience a "normal" mood very often.

What is Bipolar Disorder and what are the symptoms:

During a manic period your symptoms may include:

feeling euphoric – excessively ‘high’ restlessness
extreme irritability talking very fast
racing thoughts lack of concentration
having a lot of energy a reduced need for sleep
poor judgement a sense of own importance
increased sexual drive excessive and inappropriate spending
risky behaviour misusing drugs or alcohol
aggressive behaviour  

During a depressive episode your symptoms may include:

a sense of hopelessness feeling emotionally empty
feeling guilty feeling worthless
chronic fatigue difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much
weight loss or gain changes in appetite
loss of interest in daily life lack of concentration
being forgetful suicidal feelings

There are different types of Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar I

Bipolar I will usually be diagnosed if it is considered that you have had at least one high or manic episode, which has lasted for longer than one week.

You may only have manic episodes, although it is most common that people with Bipolar I also have periods of depression.

Bipolar II Bipolar II tends to be classified as having more than one episode of severe depression, but only mild manic episodes – this is called ‘hypomania’.
Rapid Cycling

You are likely to have Rapid Cycling Bipolar if you have more than four mood swings in a 12 month period.

This affects around one in 10 people with Bipolar Disorder and can happen with both types I and II.

Cyclothymia

The mood swings are not as severe as those in full Bipolar Disorder, but can be longer.

This can develop into full bipolar disorder.

How we can help

The nature of your symptoms will determine how we can help you.

It is most likely that you will have discussed your symptoms with your GP in the first instance, who can refer you to our services.

If this is the case you will be offered a telephone triage assessment by our Common Point of Entry (CPE) service (telephone number to the right of this page) to determine what immediate support you might need and what is the best care pathway for you.

You may be offered an assessment by a Psychiatrist or within the Community Mental Health Team.

There is a Community Mental Health Team within each of our six localities which offer a variety of treatments including psychological, medication and practical support.

If you urgently need support or feel that you are no longer able to safely manage your symptoms, you should contact our Crisis Resolution Home Treatment Team (on the telephone number to the right) for advice and support or attend your nearest accident and emergency department.